Every year, 29 of the 30 fanbases in baseball end up disappointed on some level. Some get smacked with the realization that their team is terrible by the end of April, some again as the dog days of Summer send their team into a spiral, and others as they realize the World Series trophy they saw at the end of the tunnel was merely an early October mirage they'll never be able to catch.
Both the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals now have the World Series trophy within reach, as the Giants joined the improbable Royals as league champions thanks to Travis Ishikawa's walk-off dinger against the St. Louis Cardinals late last night. For the Giants, a series loss would mean a lost opportunity at a dynasty-cementing 3rd championship in five years, something not even the Big Red Machine can claim. In fact, aside from the New York Yankees (several times), only the early 1970's Oakland Athletics, the WWII-era St. Louis Cardinals, the early 1910's Connie Mack led Philadelphia Athletics, and the Babe Ruth era Boston Red Sox of the late 1910's have managed to pull off such a feat. For the Royals, well, they've not seen the World Series since the last time they made the playoffs way back in 1985, and they've certainly laid claim to the "team of destiny" moniker in this edition of the postseason thus far. Losing now would see them miss out on what has truly been a once in a generation chance, and that's something they'd have a hard time forgetting as the years roll on.
Over at McCovey Chronicles, Grant Brisbee detailed Ishikawa's shot watched 'round the internet in classic Brisbee fashion, a moment that was as improbable as it was exciting.
At his other roost, Bris broke down how these remarkable Royals were put together, and it's actually a decently impressive series of moves for Dayton Moore in a way. The Royals almost seem to be putting together an alt-Marlins approach to this title run in that they've opted to stick with a core through rough and tumble until they finally turned poop into polish. Speaking of which, it will be quite interesting to see what the Royals do to keep this emerging core together following this season (and equally interesting to see if they can continue to outperform what they're predicted to do beyond 2014).
As for our Cincinnati Reds, there's not a whole heaping heck worth gnawing on in these October doldrums, but the Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans dove into what, if anything, they could learn from the current playoff success of those dashing Royals. His conclusion: not a ton, really, since he ascribes to the notion that the playoffs are largely a crapshoot, too. He alluded on several occasions to how the Royals and Reds were somewhat similarly built (good pitching, good defense, lots of homegrown players), but what stands out to me more than anything else is how remarkable healthy Kansas City is and has been through the bulk of the season. That's obviously something the Reds couldn't match, nor is it something the Baltimore Orioles (Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and even Chris Davis' suspension) could, either. The Giants have managed to carve out their own improbably niche with Matt Cain out, Tim Lincecum relegated, Mike Morse largely hampered, and Angel Pagan M.I.A., but they'll run into a Royals team that's about as healthy as one could hope for at this time of year. Sometimes, that's what really matters when the entire season comes down to a week's worth of games.
Rosecrans also noted that the Reds have managed to place their minor league affiliates in some of the best ballparks in all of MiLB, according to the fine folks at StadiumJourney.com. Each of the four main stadiums in which the junior Reds will play rank among the top 36 out of the 160 stadiums included, and even the Billings stadium is acknowledged as being the best in the Pioneer League (despite ranking well down the overall list). Many of us have had the chance to take in games in Dayton and Louisville, but I don't know of many who have made the trek down to Pensacola or, obviously, Daytona Beach, but it appears that both provide quite the excellent atmosphere. The full list can be found here, and this is where I lament the fact that the Lexington Legends stadium was built in the worst possible of the four potential locations 14 years ago and that's the sole reason why it sits at number 113 on this list. They went with cheap land under the promise of "development around the stadium" which never happened, and it's a bummer to think what downtown would be like had they opted to build it in the Distillery District or near the site of the old Lexington Mall. Sorry, Lexington baseball fans.
Yesterday I mentioned that you should follow Donald Lutz on Instagram because he's doing his damnedest to show us all how much he's enjoying his time in the Mexican Winter League. This is your daily reminder.
It's been just over 5 years since the 2009 MLB draft, so Baseball America took a look back at each franchise's draft class from that year and doted grades and commentary on them. The Reds, anchored by Mike Leake, Billy Hamilton, and the since traded Brad Boxberger, rank rather well on the overall list, which is yet another testament to how good Chris Buckley & Co. have been at identifying draftable talent over the last decade. It's that sustained success that makes me somewhat leery of trading one or more of Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto, or Aroldis Chapman, since the chance to pick up draft picks by them declining qualifying offers would give the Reds' scouts that many more opportunities to pluck solid prospects out of the supplemental rounds of the draft. That's where guys like Boxberger, Todd Frazier, Michael Lorenzen, and Jesse Winker came from, and the chance to have a few extra of those guys around may well exceed my excitement over getting a prospect another franchise was willing to give away in trade. Who knows, though. We all know I don't.
Finally, as of this morning it's officially ski season here in Colorado, which is something that's always met with mixed emotions for me. While I'm thoroughly ecstatic to get my butt back up on my sleds and on the mountain, it also coincides annually with the end of the baseball season. There are between four and seven games left for us to watch before things go dormant until March, and thankfully we've been allowed to enjoy them sans-Cardinals. I'll be watching intently, that's for sure. Congrats, and many thanks to the Notcardinals for winning this year's World Series, since we're all better off for it.